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Curbs In!

Filed: Monday, 14th April 2008
By: Staff Writer

As the debate on Alan Curbishley's future rages, three KUMB.com members give their reasons why he should remain in charge next season.

Curbs IN! - says Gazzaloz1

The jury is still out on Alan Curbishley after his first full season in charge but he deserves another term.

Most people would have taken a mid-table finish in August after what we endured last time round. But very few, if any, will accept the insipid football that has been served up at Upton Park these last nine months.

I can't remember coming away disappointed from so many games in one season since Roeder was here.

The problem for me is that Curbishley's purchases over the summer were all made with the aim of building a counter-attacking side, one that can withstand pressure and then hit teams on the break with pace. The early performances at Reading and Birmingham were a perfcet example.

Bellamy, Faubert and Dyer were the speed machines brought in to thrive on the ammunition provided by Parker and Mullins or Noble with Ashton as the forward linchpin to hold the ball up for them. This pace and power was meant to replace the creativity we lost when Tevez and Benayoun departed.

But injury has robbed him of his replacements, in fact most of his squad. With the exception of Green and Wright I can't think of a senior member of the squad who hasn't been injured at some point. The manager has been left to construct a plan B on the hoof but with an ever-changing first eleven it has been impossible to achieve any consistency.

For most of the season the defence has been reliable but further forward the ingenuity is missing and we have been forced to watch an endless parade of long balls delivered by Green or Ferdinand (or whoever else is guesting at centre back) punting the ball hopefully up to whoever is guesting at centre forward.

This has meant the ball has kept coming back because teams find it easy to deal with us. They crowd out the forwards and defend the second ball. When we do try and work the ball through midfield it is moved too slowly and they are easily closed down. The ball has to go backwards and is then punted forward and we give it away all over again.

It is easy to lay the blame at 'injury prone' purchases or the back room staff but all of the signings passed medicals and if there is a problem within the set-up we have to trust Nani to identify and correct it.

Hopefully Curbishley will have a fuller squad plus the benefit of Nani's summer targets and a chance to pick his first eleven next term. He must be judged on the success of that. He has earned the right for engineering the greatest ever relegation escape trick in 2006/07.

Whatever anyone thinks about this season, no one can take that away from him.

Curbs IN! - says The Old Mile End

April 2008 and our Premiership safety has been assured since February thanks to the points tally achieved from six wins on the road. Considering that we avoided relegation on the last day of the previous season and we have the largest injury list of any Premier League club, we have done remarkably well. Incredibly, we are discussing the tenure of the manager.

A debate has been raging for some time now on KUMB.com on this issue. Most recently a valid question was asked: if not Curbs, then who? This, I feel, is the key point to the debate. The reality is that there is no one hiding out there in the long grass who would reasonably come to West Ham right now and do better than Curbishley has.

Old favourites arise like Harry Redknapp. But does anyone seriously believe he would give up an FA Cup final and Europe with Portsmouth to finish the season at mid-table West Ham? This is relevant, because we are talking about sacking the manager – right here, right now. Names are thrown in such as Mourinho (contracted not to manage in the Premier League for some time), Bilic, and a few other Europeans who most unlikely want to ply their trade here at the expense of their reputation.

Bilic probably emerges as favourite – especially as he spent time here as a player – a mercenary one at that. Tenure under Bilic is likely to be short at the best. Success or failure, he’ll be gone on both counts. Curbishley’s past however, suggests he’s in it for the long term.

And what is wrong with that? The major complaints are threefold – the style of play, the injury list and the ability to take us to 'the next level'. The latter of this amuses me. We already are in front of the next level. After the miracle escape of last season, surviving would be the next level up. Followed by mid table safety (where we are now), next would be consistent top ten finishing. Then challenging for Europe on a regular basis.

Personally I don’t think any of that is beyond an experienced manager with good financial backing of his board, knowledge of his club and the ability of his players. Compare us with the two clubs promoted in 2005 and you will find the relevance of these levels. We haven’t done too badly - have we?

As to the other complaints – they seem to go hand in hand. This season’s style of play has been forced upon us due to the injury list. Despite this, we have achieved a high degree of successful results – and yes, we have over achieved. What is wrong with that? There have been several glimpses of a fast counter attacking style largely developed away from home, utilising the attributes of Bellamy. These were stifled by injury. The only other player likely to replicate this style is Sears – a fantastic young prospect who needs breaking-in in

the exact way he is doing it so far.

Are the injuries Curbishley’s fault? A large proportion of posters seem to think so. Certainly our training techniques, facilities and medical staff need to be reviewed. We must adopt a professional approach in this regard and seek an independent audit. The amount of soft tissue injury is certainly a cause for concern. I would say that Curbs has been let down by some of the backroom staff and needs to take the appropriate action as soon as he legally can – if it is his domain to do so.

I have been supporting this club for 45 years. I have seen many highs and lows. I sincerely believe that this is a time to show patience. The league position this season has been paramount in the club’s future. I am satisfied with it. We are fortunate to have an experienced managerial partnership that came from our own ilk.

They should be given time, like those before them, to re-establish the West Ham brand. There are plenty of youngsters coming through; we could be on the verge of another great era at West Ham. Ask yourself the question – how long will I support this club? If you answer is for life – then surely Curbishley deserves a couple of years of it.

Support: to keep from falling, to carry the weight of, to give strength, to encourage, to endure, to tolerate, to bear out.

Do it. Give it.

Curbs IN! - says ClaretDave

Football is perhaps unique in having a single solution to dealing with underperformance – sack the manager. Underperforming players get dropped, or paid for doing nothing. It is very rare for a coach, physio, or any other member of staff to be replaced. Yet the Premiership is littered with clubs who, at the first sign of trouble, think that changing the man in the suit is the only solution.

There are times when this policy is a success (for example, Moyes to Everton) but usually, things get worse. This season, Derby have got worse under Jewell, Fulham remained static under Hodgson; Toon, until the last couple of weeks, been a laughing stock under Keegan; Wigan at best a mild improvement under Bruce and for all the glory of the fizzy pop cup, the Spurs remain a laughing stock under Ramos, destined for (at very best) tenth place in the league – after spending the thick end of £50 million on the squad.

This perhaps makes Curbishley’s first part season at West Ham all the remarkable. The problems with last year are well known – huge problems on the pitch, even bigger problems off. However, for whatever reason, from being ten points from safety (a situation far worse than, say, Fulham or Bolton today) Curbs' side stayed up last season, winning at Old Trafford on the final day. Luck played a part, individuals played a part. But a huge slice of the credit must go to Curbishley.

This season’s key problem has been injury – whatever criticism that can be laid at the door of our medical staff, and indeed the often used argument of signing 'injury prone players' – we have been terribly jinxed this season. Not only did signings develop new strains (think Parker and Bellamy), others missed most of the season due to freak occurrences (Dyer, Faubert) and others picked up knocks at crucial times (most importantly Upson). At present, there are fourteen players on the treatment table, including the FIVE first choice central defenders.

Any team is going to struggle against such odds.

Injuries have not been the only problem. It is to Curbs' great credit that more off-field upheaval, including the dismissal of Eggert Magnusson, the lack of a brass farthing to spend in the January transfer window and the laughable distraction of a pathetic Yorkshire-based outfit’s threatened litigation have been barely noticed this season.

However, in spite of all the above, West Ham have been in the top half of the table for almost the entire season. We reached 40 points in record time – a milestone that has been most supporters’ target throughout their lives. We have had some truly memorable wins this season.

It is of course not all good – at times the football has been scrappy, and one or two players on their way out perhaps get the nod over a number of extremely promising youngsters coming through. But all considered, Curbs has done a great job this season, and deserves a chance to build on the foundations next year: with the real England’s number one in goal, a very resilient defence with Tomkins and Gabbidon fighting for a place, a decent run from a Faubert/Parker/Noble/Ljungberg midfield with Dyer in support and (finally) a consistent run for the Ashton/Bellamy front pair, and regular goals from the bench via Sears.

Still to be convinced? Would we have done better with, say, Jewell? Jol? How well has Eriksson really done at Citeh? We could take a punt on an unknown with no experience of the Premiership – but would we be better off?

Without the guarantee of a proven success in the Premiership (and only Ferguson, Wenger and Redknapp can claim this title) Curbs is very much the man for West Ham.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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